Impressing last year with art mystery The Lost Leonardo, director Andreas Koefoed returns with altogether different piece of work. Far from the globe-trotting scope of his previous film, The Fall is an intimate and sensitive portrait of an adolescent girl struggling to get over an accident that nearly ended her life.
When she was just ten years old, Estrid fell from the bedroom window of her fifth floor apartment on to solid concrete. The nightmare accident should have killed her but miraculously she survived. Koefoed’s film charts her gradual physical and mental healing through six years of painful therapy. In as much as The Fall is about Estrid’s recovery it is also about her self-discovery as she emerges from childhood into early adulthood.
Koefoed lays out his thesis in the film’s opening moments, introducing us to the sixteen-year old Estrid as she explains to her teacher her dream of becoming a dancer, and how her accident has shaped her expressive performance as an artist. In rewinding back to her ten year old self, the film in one sense reassures us that in the end Estrid will be okay while serving as a reminder that recovery from trauma is a process without an end point.
The Fall is, at its core, a bildungsroman telling a deeply familiar story about becoming oneself. Estrid’s accident is the inciting incident that inspires Koefoed to tell her extraordinary story, but it’s in her normality that the film’s true drama is found. It’s the petulance with which she tells her mother to shut up, the maturity that she surprises her mother with around an on/off relationship with her school friend, and the goggle-eyes that she makes at another boy, this time in the far away US, where the real Estrid is to be found and finds herself.
Estrid’s fall comes pointedly at the end of her prepubescent childhood. The film, rightly, doesn’t attempt turn such a horrible real life experience into a crass metaphor for adolescence, but there is no question that it posits a journey for Estrid that begins with her being broken before piecing herself, not back together per se, but into something new. Ironically, just as her mother remarks that the ‘old’ Estrid is coming back, Estrid herself is discovering someone new. This discovery is wonderfully represented by her lopping of her long brown hair in favour of a bubblegum-blue pixie cut: a wonderful image of teenage self-expression if ever there was one.
Of course, this act doesn’t magically resolve Estrid’s physical and mental scars, but it does, perhaps represent an acceptance of a new self, of an identity that is still forming itself. Estrid’s story is both unique and remarkable. But as a depiction of the painful and wonderful experience of the constant state of becoming, it’s hard to imagine anything more universal.